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June 15 2013

Oceans Melt Antarctica's Ice from Below


They may be less dramatic than the events in which icebergs break off, but everyday interactions with warm ocean currents could cause more than half of the ice melt along Antarctica’s coastline.

Ice shelves are portions of the larger ice sheet that extend over the ocean, floating on seawater. Conventional wisdom once held that calving, the break off of large chunks of ice, was the main factor driving ice-shelf dynamics, but recent research has underscored the role of melting from below, or 'basal' melting. Capitalizing on newly available monitoring data as well as recent modeling, a team of scientists led by Eric Rignot at the University of California, Irvine, has for the first time quantified this effect for the entire continent.

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